A glimmer of hope has been reported in the battle against the infestation of the Asian Longhorn Beetle. Only a handful of the invasive pests have been caught over the past few months where they had previously numbered in the hundreds.

In a report to the Worcester City Council, Robert L. Moylan, the city’s Commissioner of Public Works and Parks, said that only 28 of the tree-killing beetles had been caught in traps spread throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

“The program that’s in place seems to be impacting the beetle population,” Moylan told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

This central Massachusetts city has been at the epicenter in the fight against the Asian Longhorn Beetle ever since a curious resident sent a cellphone picture of an unfamiliar beetle she found in her driveway to the regional office of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for identification last year The discovery touched off a massive $24 million containment program that included cutting down 25,000 infected trees in a 74 square-mile area. The USDA plans to spend another $10 million to fight the pest next year.

The insects were first found in Brooklyn, NY, in 1996, where it is believed they arrived in the United States wooden crates and pallets from China. They spread from there, causing considerable damage in New Jersey and Illinois. The insects bore into hardwoods to feed on the nutrients, eventually killing the trees. Maples, birch, poplars, sycamores, and willows are particularly vulnerable. With no natural predators in this part of the world, the insects are able to spread rapidly.

The Worcester infestation has caused state and local governments throughout New England to mobilize to stop the spread of the insect. Officials have urged residents and summer visitors not to transport firewood from one area to another, as this has been identified as a primary source for the spread of the pest.
In many communities, citizen volunteers are helping to survey trees for signs of the insect. In addition to cutting down and chipping infected trees, healthy trees are being treated with the pesticide imidacloprid.